Castro, Rosalía de (Poetry Criticism)
Rosalía de Castro 1837-1885
Spanish poet and novelist.
Castro is considered one of the most influential Spanish poets of the nineteenth century. Much of her poetry was written in the traditional language of Galicia, the northwest region of Spain where she was born. Her verse, while simple in form, is mystical and highly symbolic in content, incorporating themes of cultural longing, love of nature, religious fervor, and deep melancholy. Although she received little literary recognition before her death, a reassessment of her works since the mid-twentieth century elevated Castro as a major figure in Spanish literature.
Castro was born in the Galician town of Santiago de Compostela in February 1837. She was the illegitimate daughter of María Teresa da Cruz de Castro y Abadía, a noblewoman born into a once-prominent family in Padrón, and a seminarian, José Martínez Viojo, who later became a priest. Castro's childhood years were spent on an estate in the countryside outside Santiago, where she was raised by a paternal aunt. She joined her mother in Santiago sometime after her tenth birthday. Some scholars believe that the sadness that characterizes her literary works had its roots in the early years of separation from her mother. In Santiago Castro attended the Sociedad Económica de los Amigos del País, where she studied music, art, and languages, and was active in the Liceo de San Agustín, a cultural gathering place for young artists and writers. She is reported to have written her first poem at the age of twelve. In 1856, she moved to Madrid, where she was exposed to other young Galician writers, including Manuel Martinez Murguía, whom she married in 1858. Her first volume of poetry, La flor (1857), was published during this period of her life. During their marriage, Castro and Murguía endured financial problems and Castro's persistent ill health. Still, Murguía, a historian who championed the cultural renaissance of Galicia, encouraged Castro to write. In 1863, Castro published Cantares gallegos, for which she received her first recognition as a regional poet of her day. Castro's second collection of Galician verse, Follas novas (1880), was written during a ten-year period during which she gave birth to five of her seven children, losing two of them to early deaths. Castro received national recognition as a poet with the publication of En las orillas del Sar (1884; Beside the River Sar), which she wrote in Castilian, the predominant language of Spain. This final collection of verse was composed during her long struggle with cancer. She died in July 1885.
Castro's first two volumes of poetry, La flor and A mi madre (1863) were both written in Castilian. The first collection contains conventional love poetry and is thought by critics to be of little consequence. The title piece of the second volume, which celebrates a woman's sacrifices for her daughter, was written in response to the death of the poet's mother. In Cantares gallegos Castro first celebrates her Galician heritage, using the folk language of her homeland to portray the natural beauty of the region and to evoke empathy for the poor of Galicia who struggled to preserve their traditions and political identity. These themes are revisited in Follas novas in unadorned verse that taps into a deepening cultural affinity for Galicia. Cantares gallegos and Follas novas are credited by contemporary critics with having contributed to the preservation of the cultural and linguistic heritage of the people of Galicia. In her final collection of poetry, En las orillas del Sar, Castro expresses an awareness of her own mortality in verse steeped in a pervasive sense of loneliness and loss. During her career, Castro also published five novels and numerous short stories. Only since the latter half of the twentieth century have these works received scholarly attention for their merit as social criticism.
Castro did not receive significant attention as a literary figure during most of her lifetime. Contemporary critics theorize that her gender and her reputation as a regional poet and defender of the Galician culture limited her acceptance within wider Spanish literary circles of her day. In the century after her death, however, scholars began to reassess the significance of her poetry within the context of Spanish letters. The publication of Castro's Cantares gallegos is now thought to mark the inauguration of the Galician literary revival in Spain. Castro's fluid, lyrical style of verse is notable as a contrast to the more formal, rigid structures favored by her male contemporaries. Once marginalized as a feminine approach to poetry, her independent style is now considered to be a precursor of symbolist poetry of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Critics trace the influence of her themes and motifs on the work of later poets including Rubén Darío (1867-1916), Amado Nervo (1870-1919), and Federico García Lorca (1898-1936).
La flor 1857
A mi madre 1863
Cantares gallegos 1863
Follas novas 1880
En las orillas del Sar [Beside the River Sar] 1884
Poems: Rosalía de Castro 1964
La hija del mar (novel) 1859
Flavio (novel) 1861
El caballero de las botas azules (novel) 1867
El primer loco (novel) 1881
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SOURCE: Havard, Robert G. “Image and Persona in Rosalía de Castro's En las orillas del Sar.” Hispanic Review 42, no. 4 (1974): 393-411.
[In the following essay, Havard examines themes of intimacy, illegitimacy, and melancholy in Castro's final collection of poetry.]
Whereas Cantares gallegos (1863) is considered as Rosalía's supreme evocation of the Galician Volksgeist (a feature which continues to attract somewhat disproportionate attention), her mature works, Follas novas (1880) and particularly En las orillas del Sar (1884), represent an advancement in subjective lyricism which, in turn, indicates that her status as a poetess is much above regionalismo and in the mainstream of Spanish Post-Romanticism. A certain propensity on the part of critics to concentrate on regional characteristics in Rosalía's work, coupled with a prudish deference for female privilege, have resulted in the glossing over of those intimate and darker levels of her poetry which ultimately contain her crise de coeur, her womanhood, and her universality as a poet. However, in an entirely convincing biographical study, upon which this paper leans heavily, Machado da Rosa has carefully assembled the significant details of Rosalía's life, and it is his account of two love affairs, in particular, which makes much of the poetry intelligible1 Machado da Rosa recognizes...
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SOURCE: Kulp-Hill, Kathleen. “Follas novas (New Leaves).” In Rosalía de Castro, pp. 52-76. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1977.
[In the following essay, the critic provides an examination of Castro's second collection of Galician verse.]
From 1863 to 1880, Rosalía produced several works in prose. A short story in Galician, “Conto gallego” (“Galician Tale”), was written in 1863, but was not published until 1923.1 This is her only prose piece in dialect (except for the prefaces to the two books of poetry in Galician) and may have been intended as part of a collection of tales which she never compiled. In 1866, two prose pieces, Ruinas (Ruins), a novelette, and El cadiceño (The Man from Cádiz),a satirical sketch, appeared, and an article, “Las literatas” (“Literary Women”), was published in Almanaque de Galicia, Lugo. Her most ambitious novel, El caballero de las botas azules (The Gentleman of the Blue Boots), came out in 1867. She continuously wrote poems during these years, some of which were later to comprise the collections Follas novas (New Leaves) and En las orillas del Sar (On the Banks of the River Sar). These were busy years as wife and mother as well; all of her children, except for the eldest, Alejandra (1859), were born between 1869 and 1877.
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SOURCE: Kulp-Hill, Kathleen. “En las orillas del Sar (On the Banks of the River Sar).” In Rosalía de Castro, pp. 77-99. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1977.
[In the following essay, Kulp-Hill discusses Castro's final collection of poetry, comparing its structure and style to Follas novas.]
The collection of poetry En las orillas del Sar (On the Banks of the River Sar), 1884, is Rosalía's last book of poetry and last published work. Between the publication of Follas novas (New Leaves) in 1880, and the appearance of The Sar, she had published a novel, El primer loco (The First Madman), in 1881, and a long article, “Padrón y las inundaciones” (“Padrón and the Floods”), which was serialized in the periodical La Ilustración Gallega y Asturiana (Madrid), also in 1881. Her literary career begins and closes with poetry. The Sar is, like New Leaves, an accumulation of poems written over several years' time, mostly between 1878 and 1884, so that the two volumes chronologically overlap somewhat. A number of the poems in The Sar appeared separately in periodicals, such as La Nación Española of Buenos Aires, before their publication as a collection.
The second and best known edition was organized by Murguía. The only introduction is a brief poem...
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SOURCE: Wilcox, John C. “Rosalía de Castro.” In Women Poets of Spain, 1860-1990: Toward a Gynocentric Vision, pp. 44-83. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1997.
[In the following essay, Wilcox discusses the context of political, social, and esthetic marginalization within which Castro's poetry was written.]
Unlike her sisters, Rosalía de Castro has established a secure reputation in Peninsular literature, but such was not the case during her lifetime (1837-85), when she fluctuated between being a “Nobody” (Emily Dickinson's word) and a “santiña” (dear little saint).1 Few have noted her “monstrous” qualities, to use Gilbert and Gubar's metaphor for a committed woman artist whose subconscious mind is intent on self-determination; but it is the “monstrous” as opposed to “angelic” persona that interests today's students of poetry. Rosalía's “monster” persona can be glimpsed if her poems are read as texts that were generated by a writing subject who was also female. By foregrounding the monster within Rosalía, I believe that more of her poetic originality and influence on poets of this century can be appreciated.
With one or two notable exceptions, the major criticism of Rosalía's work focuses not on female or feminist impulses but on those characteristics her poems share with all poetry: themes, style, symbols, regionalism, personal angst,...
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SOURCE: Rodrigues, Louis J. “Rosalía de Castro's Galician Poems: ‘Nasín Cand'’ … and ‘Negra Sombra’.” In NoSpine.com: Independent Authors from Around the World. (22 March 2001): <http://www.nospine.net/ShowTitle.asp?NSBN=0044-00015-013>.
[In the following essay, Rodrigues discusses two of Castro's Galician poems, examining texts translated from Galician to English, Spanish, and Catalan.]
Rosalía de Castro (1837-85) was born at Santiago de Compostela, the daughter of María Teresa de Cruz de Castro e Abadía, a descendant of an old and noble Galician family; her father was unknown but is believed to have been a seminarian, José Martínez Viojo. Rosalía was brought up by her godmother, María Francisca Martínez, a relative of her presumed father, but later rejoined her mother in Santiago. She probably learned the songs and acquired her love of the Galician people from her childhood nurse, a peasant girl called ‘La Choina’. She attended school at the Sociedad Económica de Amigos del País where she learned guitar music, drawing and French. Her interest in the literary and cultural activities of Santiago led to her frequenting the Liceo de la Juventud where she met other regional writers: Aurelio Aguirre, Eduardo Pondal, Rodriguez Seoane and her future husband Manuel Murguía. Her first poems were said to have been written at...
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Aldaz, Anna-Marie, and Barbara N. Gantt. “Introduction to Rosalía de Castro.” In Rosalía de Castro: Poems, pp. 1-24. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991.
Offers an overview of Castro's poetry and discusses their approach to translating her work into English.
Courteau, Joanna. The Poetics of Rosalía de Castro's Negra Sombra. Lewiston, New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 1995, 119 p.
A linguistic and cultural analysis of Rosalía de Castro's contribution to the preservation of Galician culture through her writings in both the Castilian and Galician languages.
Dever, Aileen. The Radical Insufficiency of Human Life: The Poetry of R. de Castro and J. A. Silva. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2000, 145 p.
A comparison of theme, tone, style, and language in the works of nineteenth-century poets Rosalía de Castro of Galicia, Spain, and José Asunción Silva of Bogotá, Colombia.
Shaw, Donald L. “Bécquer, Rosalía de Castro, and Pre-Modernismo.” In A Literary History of Spain: The Nineteenth Century, pp. 92-114. London: Ernest Benn Limited, 1972.
A discussion of the relative and contemporaneous contributions of Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer and Rosalía de Castro, who are considered by Shaw to be the two primary...
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